Friday, January 31, 2014

It just ain't happening

Unfortunately my 1st month of joining in on A Lovely Year of Finishes is a bust!
It isn't that I didn't want to reach my goal of sewing the binding onto the front of Jammer's 100 Good Wishes Quilt. In truth, I was really looking forward to making progress to finally get this one off the unfinished pile.

But....a nasty cold that I caught right after Christmas that over 2 1/2 weeks kept me miserable and then morphed into a sinus infection really put a big kink in any sewing mojo for half of the month. Then there was some focusing on getting caught up, normal work stuff, spending the past afternoons with 24 first graders reading books to them about TET and Chinese New Year and then completing a dragon puppet craft project and lastly helping a friend finish moving today...well you get the idea. Not much time for sewing has even been possible.

This is all that I have to show so far.
And to be totally honest, I didn't even cut them this month. These are the strips I cut off the yardage before I cut the pieces for the backing so all I've done towards my January goal was to take them out of their storage spot. Big whoop!

The month isn't officially over yet so after Sunshine's gymnastics class this afternoon, I'm going to attempt to actually complete this binding and do then a Snoopy dance. If I'm so fortunate, I'll update this post and join in the linky party hosted over at Fiber of All Sorts and Sew Bittersweet Designs.

If not, oh well. It might not have been in the cards for me this month. Given that half the month was spent ill, if I am able to get it done before the weekend is over, I'll consider it a success.

Happy New Year!

For our Vietnamese friends...
and for our Chinese friends...
and for all of our friends, we wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous
Year of the Horse.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rainbow Scrap Challenge 2014 - My Blue Blocks

My scrap bins are beyond overflowing. I need and want to actually do something with them this year so I've jumped on board the Rainbow Scrap Challenge 2014. 

A couple of months ago the kids and I sorted all of the scraps by color and then promptly stuffed them back onto the bins. Since January's color is Blue, I pulled all those Blue scraps out and set to work. Here is the darker Blue pile. The picture is really deceiving. It is 16" wide x 10" deep by 8" high.The lighter Blue pile is almost as big.
In deciding what block to make, I wanted to be able to use a bunch of different fabrics and to use up as much as possible. A 25 patch came to mind but as usual, I wanted to change it up a tad little bit. By replacing a few of the Blue squares with Bella Bleached White ones, I created a different block that I'm really happy with.

This is what they look like. I went ahead and made both a Dark Blue and a Light Blue version.
My way my wonky design wall hangs makes them not look square but they are in reality. I really need to make a new design wall soon.
I was so excited about how these turned out that I drafted up what the entire quilt will look like once all the blocks are done and I can't wait to see it finished. It is going to be really great. Honest!

This project will help me focus on actually using up my scraps and I've spent a bit of time ironing and cutting the rest of the Blue into usable size pieces. Hopefully all the Blue scraps will be done soon and then I'll use them as leaders and enders to work towards making a few other scrap quilts too.

So what will be the color for next month?

Friday, January 24, 2014

Not feeling the love

So far Penelope and I have not become the close and loving friends that I had hoped we'd become.

Though I haven't had a ton of time these past months to get used to her, the few times that I have, she has not played nice. Not nice at all. I have read and reread the manual so many times my eyes feel like they are crossed. I've made all the adjustments recommended by the manual and a friend and every recommendation that I have read on the Hinterberg Yahoo Group multiple times with no success. For the most part, this is the only thing I have to show for my attempts.
 Yuck! Lots of huge long stitches, nothing controllable and certainly nothing pretty. And if you think the top looks bad, this is what the back looks like!

Even worse! At this point, I'm seriously thinking that I have an electronics problem and if that is the case, no matter what I do to get her stitch nicely, it isn't going to work. I can't help but wonder if it was dropped or otherwise damaged when the older couple that I bought if from moved it from their basement where they had it set up to their garage where she was when I picked her up. I know that when I moved her, I was extremely careful so I'm sure that nothing that I have done since setting my hands on her has caused any problems but either way, she is sick and needs professional attention.

I just spent some time on the phone talking to Steve from Dekkt Out Quilting, who happens to be an expert on the Voyager and he explained all about how the electronics are built on this machine. Of course, he'll come and do a service call on the machine and get her up and running if that is what I want but now knowing that the electronics that she has aren't great at all and likely to continue to be problematic in the future, I'm now considering having Steve do the upgrade to her while he is here. Part of me hates the thought of spending the money, but I did get her for a steal of a deal so in essence if I buy the upgrade, I'd still have spent less than I would have for any other used longarm machine and frame. All the other members of the Hinterberg Yahoo group that have done the upgrade absolutely love it and have said that it has eliminated all of the electronics problems so I know that it would be a great thing to have. It is just hard to make the jump to spend the money. It will be so worth it but it is still hard.

Update: After talking to a couple of people this afternoon and doing more research, the likelihood that the problems are in the electronics is pretty high. I know a few of you have mentioned tension but trust me, I can't even get it running to even worry about what the tension looks like. I contacted a local shop that sells a different brand of long arm machines; one of the owners has been repairing many brands of machines for a lot of years and he'll be coming next week to see if he can find the problem(s) and get Penelope fixed. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I really want to get busy developing my technique and actually quilting my projects.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Class Conundrum and the Great Roommate Hunt

I just can't decide!
I don't know which ones to pick.
The classes on the schedule for MQX New England Quilt Festival is what I'm referring to. I'm trying to figure out which classes to register for. I never realized that there would be so many options and that it would be so hard to decide. And I need to do it very soon.

I certainly could use your help, if you've been to MQX East in the past yourself or you've taken classes from any of the instructors. Please help me decide which classes are the right ones for me so that I can register for them before they fill up.

To narrow down the possibilities, I'm only looking at classes for machine quilting, mostly longarm classes, for true Beginners as I am or techniques applicable to everyone.

For instance, should I take the new all day class with Linda Taylor or a bunch of different "smaller" classes? I've heard some good things about Dawn Cavanaugh, Lisa Calle, Barbara Persings, DeLoa Jones and Gina Perkes plus taking a class from Kim Brunner is on my bucket list. There are also lots of other teachers on the list but I don't know much about them. 

What I mostly want to do is 1) to learn as much as I can obviously but also get a lot of practical hands on classes  (demos and lectures are on my list of choices too) and 2) to avoid as much as possible taking classes from different instructors that are basically the same. I've heard that this can happen if you aren't careful and since my chances of being able to attend the show again in the future isn't a given, I'd like to get as much out of this trip as possible. Plus my hubby may not be winning to play Mr. Mom for this many days that often.

So any advice that you can offer up would be so greatly appreciated. Haven't been to MQX East but know someone that has? Please pass on my questions to him/her for me. You know....the girlfriend's been-there-done-that info is what I am looking for. And any other tips on attending this show that one might offer up would be welcome too. I've never been before so I have no clue as to the ins and outs of a bigger show.

I also have one of these.
A hotel room booked for the show with 2 queen beds and I only need 1 of them. A good friend and my sister were going to the show with me and now can't so I'm on the hunt for a roommate, to share hotel expenses and the whole experience with. Pass the word, would you?

I'm really looking forward to this show. I hear that it is a really good one to attend to learn a lot about longarm quilting and the fact that it is within a few hours driving distance for me makes it cost effective and possible to attend. I'm heading into uncharted waters for me and I'm a little nervous.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Crafting By The Numbers - 4th Quarter and Final Report

This is the 4th quarter 2013 and final Crafting By The Numbers post ever.
I started this crazy exercise in January 2012 because I'm a numbers nut (that's what happens to us accountant types) and I wondered just how many days out of the year I typically manage to work on something crafty. I kept track just for shits and giggles.

October was just a so, so month craft/sewing wise. I got to work on something just 9 out of the 31 possible days, or 29%.
November wasn't much better. Only 11 of the total 30 days was I able to put a check mark on the calendar. That works out to 36%.
December was an impossible month as I've mentioned before but the final days of the month and the post Christmas semi-quiet gave me a few more calendar marks for the month. I was able to get into my studio only 5 of the possible 31 days, or a measly 16%.
My grand total for 2013 is 127 days out of 365, which equates to 35%. It certainly isn't the big number that I was hoping for when the year started but it is better than 2012 so I'll take it.

What have I learned through all of this numbers keeping? A couple of things actually.

I've learned that my mood can be directly related to me getting some ME time, no matter if that is some sewing time, some reading time or some gardening time. The more days that I went without doing something crafty or indulgent, the more uneasy I got, sort of like a bad itch that I couldn't scratch. So in fact, being creative is important for my well being and that is better than any medicine or food any day of the week.

I've also learned that it doesn't take a ton of time to fill up my creative need for the day. Some days all I had time for was to browse through a magazine or quilting book while I got ready for work and it was enough to get my thinking brain working on a potential new project. Other days I squeezed in a little fabric coordinating, considering the color, scale and pattern possibilities of potential pieces.

While I'm not going to continue this exercise in 2014, I know that I've spurred a few others to track their own crafting time and hopefully they too will learn something about themselves along the way to accomplishing their creative endeavors.

Sunday, January 12, 2014
Sunday, January 5, 2014

Stunning Stitchin Sunday

 Welcome to the 1st post in my Stunning Stitchin Sunday series for 2014. Since starting this series in the middle of last year, there have been 41 different stitchers showcased and I hope to add many more to that list this year. Both novice and experienced, professional and hobbyist, whether by domestic machine, long arm or something else entirely (ie knitting needles or embroidery needle), I truly enjoy sharing all the terrific and stunning stitching I come across on others' blogs.

Do you know of another quilter who's fantastic work I should know about? Tell me please! I'd love to have more quilters join my party each week. This party is all about the sharing and the inspiring each of us so enjoy!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

January Goal Setting Party

As I wrote on my Focus post, I'm going to try to participate more to help motivate me to get more done this year. I want to start the year off right so I'm setting my goals for January. First up is the 2014 A Lovely Year of Finishes hosted by Shanna of Fiber of All Sorts and Melissa of Sew Bittersweet Designs.
I'm committing myself to machine sewing the binding onto the front of Jammer's 100 Good Wishes Quilt.
The quilting on this has actually been done for a long time (more time than I will admit) and I put it aside to finish later. Then many other projects came up and completing the last step was forgotten, until recently that is. I really want this UFO finally finished. It is H.U.G.E., measuring 116" x 130" so there is no way I'd attempt doing the binding hand sewing onto the back at any other time of the year other than in the winter and the 1st step will be to get it machine sewn onto the front.

If I can get that part done, than I can work on the binding hand sewing onto the back during February. Sunshine's 100 Good Wishes Quilt really needs to get made this year and I want to have Jammer's 100% completely done before I start on hers.

This year I'm going to participate in Barbara of Cat Patches 2014 New FO Challenge. Hopefully this will help me get my long awaited projects actually started and the A Lovely Year of Finishes will help me to get them done.
My New FO for January will be to make something with these Always and Forever charms. My plans for them have changed multiple times but I needed to stop thinking and start doing.
And start doing is exactly what I have done already.
Over the past recent days, while the snow storm swirled outside, I cut and sewed some of these beautiful fabrics together. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to actually get it quilted and bound before the weekend is over. Ah, who am I kidding? But I can dream, can't I and I just might surprise both you and me.

My 2nd New FO will be to get started working with these fabrics. I know...I only need one New FO but I'm adding this one anyway.
These will become an EMS/Fire Department themed quilt which will be raffled off at a work industry convention this year with the proceeds going to a charitable organization, which one to yet be decided by my employer. He is donating the fabrics and batting and I'm donating my time.

Last year I really loved seeing what everyone was doing with their scraps for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge and lord knows I have plenty of scraps to do something with so I'm going to try to participate in this during 2014.
I haven't decided what block I want to make yet each month but a few possibilities are swirling around in my head. The color for January is Blue.

So there you have it. My goals for January. Wish me luck. I sure need it.

So what do you have planned for this month?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Sewing with the kidlets - December Primary Bee blocks

As 2013 was closing, the kidlets and I finally got the time to make the December Primary Bee blocks.
 The Bee Princess for December is Wild Child who's mom Amy blogs over at Butterfly Angels Quilting and she requested Friendship Star blocks in Hot Pink, Black and White.

I pulled a bunch of fabric choices for the kidlets to choose from and we set to work. Jammer wasn't in the mood on Monday to sew so Sunshine went 1st. Although I did the ironing and the cutting, she was pretty good about sewing the pieces together.
The most challenging part is getting her used to where and how to hold her hands to guide the fabric correctly.
Daddy got home from work Monday evening so she wanted to take a break but she was eager to finish this up on Tuesday morning. Here she is with her finished block. She is really proud of her block and so am I.
Hi! I'm Sunshine. I learned to follow the line to make a half square triangle.

On Tuesday, once Jammer saw what Sunshine created, he really wanted to get his block made too. He picked out the fabrics that he wanted to use and like with Sunshine, I did the ironing and the cutting, but he did the rest of it (for the most part).
Again, teaching them the proper way to guide the fabric so that the seam lines come out right was the most challenging part.
To help them both practice this part more, I think I'm going to make up some pieces and let them go to town honing their seam sewing skills.

It wasn't long before Jammer's block was completed too. It certainly isn't perfect but it is pretty good for his 1st block ever.
 Hi! I'm Jammer. I learned to always pay attention to what I'm doing so that I don't mess up. 

It was evening by the time these were completed so they couldn't get mailed. The plan was to have them on their way yesterday but with the big nor-easter snow storm, there was no way I was going out of the house. They will be on their way to their new owner Wild Child this afternoon.

So this is my Whoop Whoop for this week. It is also my Finish It Up Friday, my TGIFF and my Link-A-Finish Friday and my Show Off Saturday item. No they aren't completed quilts but being able to "finish" something with the kidlets is no easy task so I think this counts just fine.

So what did you complete this week?